MLK Day 2022: Will America Ever Get It Right With Electoral Reform?

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MLK Day 2022
Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his speech (Photo credit: theatlantic.com)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day) has become a benchmark to measure America’s progress in fighting racial injustice and ensuring equality for all. King’s legacy is celebrated annually for energizing and mobilizing a generation of Americans, both Black and White, for the cause of civil rights. In his May 1957 “Give Us the Ballot” speech in Washington, DC., King advocated voting rights for African Americans in the United States.

Ahead of MLK Day 2022 and its standards, the United States is poised to step backward in voting rights legislation, making it harder for African Americans to vote or have their votes counted.

A Brief Background on Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day 2022
Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo credit: The Guardian)

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a famous civil-rights activist who greatly influenced American society in the 1950s and 1960s. He was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King received a doctorate in theology, and in 1955, he helped organize the first major protest of the African American civil rights movement, the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Furthermore, King’s strong belief in nonviolent protest helped set the tone of the movement. His boycotts, protests, and marches were effective in forcing legislatures to pass laws against racial discrimination.

What MLK stood for

Assassinated in 1968, King had a brief life filled with many accomplishments including working to promote equal treatment of all races. Furthermore, his nonviolent approach to protesting, his legion of followers, and his belief in the ability of humanity to live in peace went a long way toward the advancement of civil rights during this tumultuous time in history. King fought to end racial segregation.

His goals were to abolish racial discrimination in many areas, including voting, public transportation, employment, and education. During his struggle against racial segregation, some of his major accomplishments were;

  • providing leadership in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • delivering the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 during the March in Washington
  • being an advocate for nonviolent protest in the Memphis Sanitation Worker Strike in 1968.
  • writing the letter from Birmingham Jail highlighting the necessity of civil rights change.
  • being instrumental in establishing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a civil rights organization that supports the philosophy of nonviolence.

Restricting voting rights would disappoint Martin Luther King

America’s new electoral reform would distort King’s vision of a democracy that works for all Americans. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, King was a spokesperson for the Black-led freedom movement that was determined to end racial segregation in America. Also, the Beloved Community that Dr. King preached and organized toward wasn’t just an America where Black, white, and brown could sit down in a restaurant together. It was the hope of a political system where Black, white, and brown masses could vote together for leaders who would serve the common good.

Speaking of electoral reform, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King says she believes King would have been disappointed with efforts to restrict voting rights in some parts of the United States.

“What’s going on right now would not surprise him; it would disappoint him”, Bernice King, the youngest child of Martin Luther King, said. She made those comments as President Joe Biden visited her father’s birthplace of Atlanta on Tuesday, January 11, to kickstart stalled efforts to reform U.S. voting rights, which some activists say will deter Black voters from the polls.

Ahead of MLK Day 2022, King’s family is calling on people not to celebrate unless the U.S. upholds the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is one of the things MLK stood for.

Reactions trailing MLK Day 2022

 

 

Martin Luther King’s 15 Iconic Quotes

To honor King’s legacy, here are 15 of his iconic quotes. Some you may have heard already and some you probably haven’t. However, all of them are worth repeating and contemplating as we celebrate equality.

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. Click To Tweet I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. Click To Tweet True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice. Click To Tweet

 

 

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope. Click To Tweet Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Click To Tweet Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude. Click To Tweet I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear Click To Tweet Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others? Click To Tweet Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness. Click To Tweet Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter Click To Tweet We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. Click To Tweet Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. Click To Tweet Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Click To Tweet We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less… Click To Tweet Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

The assault on voting rights that African Americans have witnessed over the years is about more than suppressing Black votes. It is an array of tactics to prevent everyday people from having the power to elect leaders who would enact policies the vast majority of Americans support. While marking MLK Day 2022, African Americans must build a broad, multiethnic coalition to fight together for democracy in the United States.

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